Act 250 Advocacy Update

Grant Wieler

Most recently, The House Natural Resources Committee voted to include language that supports an alternative from Act 250 for trail building oversight. This is good news, but we have a long way to go. There is a lot of work to be done this summer, namely establishing best management practices (BMPs) that other groups and legislators can get behind – and one that will protect the character of chapters. Building this consensus is extremely nuanced and takes time. Success in this arena is the result of well-timed and focused conversations in the Statehouse.

The Vermont Trails Alliance has been working with other groups in Montpelier to develop a sensible alternative to Act 250 for trails for nearly two years. The VMBA office recognizes and appreciates that riders want to rally for their trails. There may be a time when the rally bell rings, but we will do so with careful planning and precision – and we’re not there yet.

So what does this all mean exactly? 

Currently, the Natural Resources Board (NRB) oversees Act 250 and jurisdiction over “major development” in Vermont, which presently includes trails. The Dept. Forests, Parks & Recreation (FPR) falls under the Agency of Natural Resources (ANR). The goal is to develop an alternative to Act 250, that is driven by strong best management practices (BMPs), and that inspires the decision makers to support this oversight moving from NRB exclusively to FPR. Doing so will lead to a process that achieves environmental sensitivity and is driven through broadly accepted BMPs.

Trail nonprofits, including VMBA, have been intensely engaged in negotiations with many groups in Montpelier. The trails community has made progress through patient communication, educating partners and coalescing like-minded stakeholders that have influence in Montpelier.

Moving forward we will continue to work towards a commonly accepted alternative for trail oversight emboldened by BMPs. All chapters will be invited to participate in the development of MTB BMPs. More information on this process will be sent to chapters this spring.

Again, this is all a fluid process. We appreciate everyone’s attention and awareness on this important matter. The office will send updates as things unfold. If needed and when the time is right, we will rally.

2 thoughts on “Act 250 Advocacy Update

  1. Communicating, collaborating and compromising is no easy process. It takes professionals with all of these “soft” skills as well as the hard skills associated with natural resource management and trail construction. It has been my personal experience that the hiring of recreation resource managers within FPR has created a more balanced and positive approach to recognizing the value of and promoting and managing recreation. The stewardship teams of FPR at times have been comprised of professionals who seem a bit possessive and limited in sight in terms of their specialty areas. I appreciate the complexity of the natural world, and at times its fragility. However, I do believe a rational approach with a willingness to try new things (within reason), collect data, and revise plans as necessary is a desirable path for lands in Vermont. Let’s hope the process can be efficient while still meeting the needs of the stakeholders including the birds, the brooks, and the brambles.

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